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Stand Watie
Stand Watie

Stand Watie was born Dec. 12, 1806, near Rome Georgia, and died Sept. 9, 1871, at his home on Honey Creek in Delaware County, Oklahoma, near the northwest corner of Arkansas. He learned to read and write English at a mission school in Georgia, and occasionally helped write for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper (after Sequoyah developed the 86-symbol Cherokee syllabary in 1821) with his brother Buck Watie (who took the name of Elias Boudinot from a white benefactor). His father David Watie (or Oowatie) was the brother of Major Ridge, and the Ridge-Watie families became wealthy slave-owning planters in the new Cherokee constitutional republic that replaced tribal government in 1827. The state of Georgia opposed any form of tribal government and in 1828 began to pass repressive anti-Indian laws without any recourse for the Cherokee in state courts. After gold was discovered on Cherokee lands in northern Georgia, 3000 white settlers poached on Indian lands. Only the treaties with the federal government gave Indians protection from the states. The Supreme Court under John Marshall declared the repressive state laws null and void in the 1832 Worcester v. Georgia case, but President Jackson refused to enforce the court's decision. In 1832, Georgia confiscated most of the Cherokee land, including the estates of John Ross, and sold them in a land lottery to whites. The Georgia militia entered the Cherokee capital of New Chota and destroyed the Cherokee Phoenix.

The Ridge-Watie faction allied with President Andrew Jackson to sign the New Echota Treaty Dec. 29, 1835, that required Cherokees to leave Georgia in return for 800,000 acres in the Indian Territory and $15 million. The Treaty was opposed by tribal chief John Ross and the Council and most Cherokees who refused to leave their homes in Georgia. The Ridge-Watie group led the voluntary removal of 2000 Cherokees from Georgia to the Indian Territory in 1837, but Ross and 10,000 others were forced out on the "Trail of Tears" in 1838. Some members of the anti-treaty party decided to kill the leaders of the Treaty Party at a secret meeting at Double Springs on June 21, 1838, and the next day killed Major Ridge and John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. The executions were justified by a clause of the Cherokee Constitution that authorized the death penaly for anyone selling tribal land without authorization. Stand Watie was also marked for death, but was warned and escaped. The Cherokee nation was deeply divided by the experience of the Treaty and the Trail of Tears and the Ridge-Boudinot murders. Watie formed a band of warriors for protection and refused to disband after Ross complained to the Jackson government. This internal civil war lasted until a truce was established in 1846 and Stand Watie joined the Tribal Council 1845-1861 (although Ross would remain the official elected Principal Chief until his death in 1866) presiding over a Cherokee population of 21,000 in the Indian Territory in 1861.

  Indian Territory Watie joined the Confederacy in 1861 because he feared the consequences of Lincoln's election and the Republican Party's free soil promises to open the west and the Indian Territory to white settlement. The Union abandoned all Indian Territory military posts in the spring of 1861, violating treaty pledges and making the area vulnerable to Confederate attack. He was a slave-owning planter that shared many values of the Old South. When Albert Pike and Douglas Cooper recruited Indian soldiers for the Confederacy in 1861, Watie agreed to form a Cherokee cavalry unit. Also, John Drew formed a regiment of full-blood "Pin" Cherokees (wearing a crossed-blades symbol as a pin on uniforms), as did the Choctaws and Chickasaws and Creeks and Seminoles. However, the Creeks were divided like the Cherokees. Creek chief Opothleyaholo refused to join the Confederacy and in April 1861, Confederate Indians began attacks on the neutral Creek settlement on the Deep Fork River, but Opothleyaholo won the Battle of Round Mountain Nov. 19 and Chusto Talasay Dec. 9. However, on Dec. 26, Cooper's Confederate Indians defeated Opothleyaholo at Chustenalah and drove the pro-Union Creeks into Kanasas where they formed the First and Second Union Indian Brigades to retake their homeland. At the Battle of Pea Ridge March 6-8, 1862, Stand Watie and his Cherokee Mounted Rifles captured Union artillery batteries in a dramatic charge and held their position to allow an orderly withdrawal of Earl Van Dorn's Confederate army. Pea Ridge began the Union invasion of the Indian Territory. John Drew and his Confederate Indians deserted from the Confederacy but Stand Watie continued to fight. The Indian Expedition of 1862 advanced from Fort Leavenworth with 6000 on June 28 led by Col. William Weer, an alcoholic former officer under Jayhawker James Lane who sought to take over the Indian Territory lands for his personal gain. Weer occupied the Confederate capital of Tahlequah and captured John Ross, but paroling him when he agreed not to oppose the Union army . Stand Watie was defeated at Locust Grove July 3 by the 6th Kansas Cavalry and the black First Kansas Colored Infantry. But Weer's officers led by Col Frederick Salomon mutinied against Weer and retreated back to Kansas, re-arresting John Ross and taking him to Kansas (and then was sent to Washington D.C. where he died in 1866). Watie was left in control of the Cherokee lands and his forces conducted a brutal campaign of revenge against pro-Union Cherokees and white missionaries. Stand Watie was chosen to replace the deposed John Ross as Chief of the Cherokees. Watie joined a Confederate raid into southwest Missouri lead by Col. Cooper and Jo Shelby, defeating Frederick Salomon at Newtonia Sept. 30. But Gen. Schofield led a Union army to retake Newtonia Oct. 4 and drove the Confederates back into Arkansas. Stand Watie and Douglas Cooper were defeated by Schofiled at Old Fort Wayne Oct. 22, and retreated south of the Arkansas River. The Union army diverted 10,000 troops from the west to help Grant at Vicksburg in November. To take advantage of this Union weakness, Gen. John Marmaduke led 2500 Confederate troops to Cane Hill in northwest Arkansas but was defeated there Nov. 28 by Gen. James Blunt and 5000 Union troops. Gen. Thomas Hindman led a Confederate army of 11,300 to attack Blunt, but Gen. Francis Herron brought 6000 Union troops from Springfield to defeat the Confederates at Prairie Grove Dec. 7, 1862. Another Union army of 1200 under Col. William Phillips defeated Stand Watie at Fort Davis Dec. 22. By the end of 1862, Union forces had secured the western flank of the Mississippi to allow Grant's river offensive to continue. Confederate forces had been defeated and pushed south of the Arkansas River

Indian Territory The Indian Expedition of 1863 under James Blunt captured Fort Gibson. At the Battle of Honey Springs July 17, Blunt defeated Cooper's Confederate Indians and Blunt crossed the Arkansas River and captured Fort Smith Sept. 1, 1863, ending the Union offensive in the Indian Territory. On Sept. 10, Little Rock fell to a Union force under Frederick Steele, and Sterling Price abandoned the Arkansas River and retreated to Arkadelphia in southwest Arkansas. Stand Watie conducted raids in 1863 and 1864, as did other irregular units such as Charles Quantrill who sacked Lawrence Aug. 21, 1864, but Watie focused only on military targets and distributed captured supplies to his people. In Nov. 1863, he attacked the Union Cherokees at Tahlequah, destroyed the town, and burned the Rose Cottage of John Ross at Park Hill. In December, Gen. Samuel Maxey began to rebuild Confederate Indian forces in the Territory and Watie was ordered to increase his raids to force a Union withdrawal from Fort Gibson. From his bases south of the Canadian River in 1864, he captured hundreds of horses from Fort Gibson and deprived the Union cavalry of fresh mounts. On May 10, he was promoted to Brigadier General. In June 1864 at Pleasant Bluff just below the mouth of the Canadian River he captured the steamer J. R. Williams carrying supplies to Fort Gibson. In September 1864 he captured 300 supply wagons at the Cabin Creek crossing on the road to Fort Gibson References:
  • Cunningham, Frank. General Stand Watie's Confederate Indians. San Antonio, Naylor Co., 1959, paperback reprint 1998 by University of Oklahoma Press. 242 p.
  • Franks, Kenny Arthur. Stand Watie and the Agony of the Cherokee Nation. Memphis State University Press, 1979. 257 p., based on the author's thesis from Oklahoma State University, 1973.
  • Josephy, Alvin M., Jr., The Civil War in the American West. New York, Random Vintage, 1991 paperback, 448 p.
  • Rampp, Lary C. and Donald L. Rampp. The Civil War in the Indian Territory. Austin, Texas: Presidial Press, 1975. 210 p.